President Muhammadu Buhari hosted his first media chat yesterday December 30 at the Aso Rock presidential villa in Abuja.
He spoke on issues like corruption, Chibok girls, oil subsidy, the Army/Shiite clash and many more. The Journalists fielding the questions were, Ngozi Anyaegbulam (Media World International), Ibanga Isine (Premium Times), Kayode Akintemi (Channels TV), Munir Dan Ali (Daily Trust). Read on,
How are we doing with the fight against corruption?
“Thirty years ago as Head of State, we collected those we perceived to be corrupt and put them in protective custody, until they prove they were not guilty. At present, those suspected of being corrupt are innocent until they are proven guilty. “We have documents showing Nigerian crude oil was lifted illegally and proceeds are put into personal accounts instead of Government account. We are in court with suspected corrupt persons and we cannot comment until the court are through.We can only appeal to Nigerians to be patient.” “Our constraint is that the accused persons have to defend themselves in court to defend themselves. So, we cannot release their names to the public until the issues are completed in court. Whatever we recover will be presented in court. “The documentation in court include bank statements and documents from Customs Service that are to be presented in court. Until then, we ask Nigerians to have patience.” “We have to be patient and await outcome of courts decision. Government will only react through the Ministry of Justice after the courts have finished with matters before them. “We have documents showing where monies have been lodged.”
Is there need to rejig the EFCC, ICPC?
“We have to be very sure of the documents we get and we have to cross check records sometimes across countries and in the EFCC. Those who were engaged in the theft of oil were people of substance and have the wealth to hire the best of lawyers to defend them. We need to submit fool-proof documents to succeed in prosecution. How many people have ICPC prosecuted in the past? That is why we are being thorough now. By the end of first quarter of next year, we would be in a position to tell Nigerians how far we have gone. By the end of the first quarter of next year, we will tell Nigerians how far we have gone on the fight against corruption. I swore by the Holy Koran to defend the country’s constitution and the law. So, we will not put any body above the law”.
Asset declaration not so public after all, not fully made..
“I have declared my assets four times in the past. You have the constitutional right to go to the relevant government agency to go and seek for it. “They were deposited at the Ministry of Justice. If Ministry of Justice cannot produce my asset declaration form, then they too should answer some questions. “Why me alone, why not others who were governors and Ministers as well. I think I don’t have to ask them to give, it is your constitutional role.”
Buhari says he swore by the Holy Quran to fight corruption..
“By the end of the first quarter of next year, we will tell Nigerians how far we have gone on the fight against corruption. I swore by the Holy Koran to defend the country’s constitution and the law. So, we will not put any body above the law.”
On allegations that some members of his party that have been accused of corruption are being shielded from investigation, he said..
“I don’t tolerate corruption and I did not pick anyone that will corrupt my government. It is the right of Nigerians to take them to court. I have not taken anybody who is facing corruption charges. I cannot make the mistake of appointing anyone with corruption. Whoever is found to be corrupt would not only be sacked but prosecuted.”
On the missing Chibok girls, Buhari said his administration is working towards their rescue..
“We want to be sure that the girls are complete, safe and sound before we attempt any form of negotiation on the girls. We are still keeping our option. If a credible leadership of Boko Haram is ready for negotiation without any condition we are ready to listen to them. We are working with Niger, Chad and Cameroun on the girls. We have no credible intelligence of where they are. ”
President Buhari spoke on the possibility of banning the Hijab, if the suicide bombing continues..
“If this thing (suicide bombing) continues, Hijab would have to be banned. When I said that the war has been technical won, I said the capacity of Boko Haram to unleash attacks from camps and barracks have been stopped. If Hijap is found to be a problem, the government will have no option than to take a decision on it. The people will have to consider between it and their security.”
On the Shiite/Army clash, he said
“The President of Iran spoke to me about the situation. But, I told him that as a government we have a system we must follow. “As the head of the Federal Government, I told him I will have to wait for the official report from the Kaduna State government from their investigations. To be fair to the both sides, we have to wait for the report of the inquiry. I expect the Kaduna State government will bring the report on the inquiry because the crisis happened in its domain. There are all sorts of allegations. So, we just have to wait for the report. I was in touch with the governor of Kaduna state and the president of Iran talked to me about it. We have a system of investigation as a government and as the head of the federal government, I have to wait for official report before I comment. The Police and the SSS are doing their own role of finding out what happened. In any incident where lives and property were lost there is a standard way of doing things and people would be asked to come and give evidence. How can any group create a state within a state? I saw a clip in which some dissidents were virtually hitting the chest of Generals.”
On the possible devaluation of the Naira, Buhari said..
“Personally, I don’t support the devaluation of the Naira. We handed over a secured country in 1979, but by 1984, nobody knew how much Nigeria was owing. The situation now is aggravated by the downturn in the petroleum industry. It is now per barrel and we have debt service of about N1.5 trillion and we have commitment on the ground. We have to reorganize the NNPC. We have to introduce the TSA. There were 45 accounts in the NNPC alone. Ministry of Defence had about 70 accounts. We have got about N1.5 trillion through the TSA. The oil downturn is very unfortunate for this government. Check previous records. Over 90% were recurrent. No country can develop without capital projects. We were in very very bad shape. I will not support devaluation of the Naira. I need to be convinced that there is need for the country to devalue the Naira. Is it against the dollar or pound? We have our priorities. To provided money to fund the projects we have already outlined, and not for those who want hard currency to import textile and toothpick.”
Regarding the continuous detention of Sambo Dasuki and Nnamdi Kanu:
“If you see the atrocities those committed against this country, we can’t allow them to jump bail.”